The Grichan Partnership: Personal touch – Richard Hewitt

While there is little doubt that the emergence of social media has affected headhunting methods in recent years, it cannot come at the expense of a personal, fine-tuned approach, argues Richard Hewitt. As senior partner at The Grichan Partnership, an executive search and consulting firm, Hewitt believes that companies - which, as a result of time constraints, are unable to conduct screening and vetting processes themselves - can only succeed in their search for C-suite talent by making use of specialist recruitment know-how.

"With the likes of LinkedIn and Facebook, it's similar to entering a lottery," he says. "You just don't know whether you are going to succeed or not. It's about the candidate - you need to have somebody that understands your business's values and culture, and how this fits in with the context of your competitors and customers."

Executive approach

Through working closely with its clients, Grichan's consultants - who predominantly come from strong business backgrounds - take the time to understand the specific needs of the relative company and find the right candidate for the long run.

"Grichan’s focus is always on the quality of service delivered rather than the quantity of projects on its books."

"The main business service we offer is executive search," says Hewitt. "This is with the goal that the leader is going to leave a positive and indelible mark on your company over, say, a five-year period. Our approach is talk to clients about business strategies and outcomes - we don't talk to them about job descriptions."

Grichan assists clients across the gamut of sectors, including construction, defence, aviation and healthcare, as well as government services outsourcing firms, primarily in the UK, Europe and the Middle East. According to Hewitt, the firm's focus is always on the quality of service delivered rather than the quantity of projects on its books.

"We try and avoid the transactional," he says. "This means that we get our consultants to deal with few companies, but within those organisations, they might deal with several directors and managers. The aim is that they then become an extension of the particular cultures and values within that business, and achieve a kind of personal synergy.

"This adds real benefit to the process. Often, many of our competitors have restricted travel policies, which prevent their consultants from meeting with customers and candidates. At Grichan, we make a point of meeting them when and where they are available to do so."

Cloud value

While Hewitt is quick to challenge the prevalence of social networking, he believes that the right technology can add value to the search process. Consequently, earlier this year, Grichan transferred its IT functions entirely into the cloud, dramatically improving the efficiency of its operations.

"In gaining ISO 9001 certification, Grichan has mapped and amended its ideas about how to run an effective executive search campaign."

"Today, all of our files, customers' details, mechanisms and accountancy functions are stored in the cloud," he explains. "This means that when our research teams start posting CVs, I can quickly look at them and post comments on what I think they should be talking to the client about. We have effectively harnessed our collective brain in one place for the good of our clients."

Furthermore, this migration to cloud was done in concert with the group obtaining ISO 9001 accreditation, the internationally recognised standard for the quality management of businesses.

"In gaining ISO 9001 certification, we have mapped and amended, both internally and with our customers, our ideas about how to run an effective executive search campaign," Hewitt says. "Improving this framework, we can now provide results for our clients in an even more timely fashion, usually within four to six weeks."

Client comes first

In Hewitt's eyes, where executive search companies have gone wrong in the past - and in many cases, continue to do so - was to place too great an onus on a sales approach. Representing a firm antithesis to this, Grichan's team of consultants are incentivised by putting the client and candidate first, rather than solely for personal remuneration.

"Executive search placements are about finding, building, nurturing and maintaining the relationship with an individual within a search organisation that you can trust to act on your behalf," he says. "It might sound twee, but successful outcomes don't just happen overnight. In enabling success, it's about passion, not sales targets."


Richard Hewitt is senior partner at The Grichan Partnership, an executive search and consulting firm.